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ThunderWolf playoff hopes could rest with victory over Mines

File photo.
File photo.

The CSU-Pueblo football team has a tough road ahead to make the playoffs, but the team will not just settle for making it this year.

The ThunderWolves have made the NCAA Division II Playoffs every year since 2011 and want to keep the streak going through this season. The only difference this year is the team suffered its first loss in the regular season in three years.

CSU-Pueblo broke into the playoffs in 2011, but the team was bounced after just one game: a 24-21 loss at the hands of Minnesota Duluth.

The team rebounded in 2012 and was back in the playoffs after another undefeated regular season. The Thunderwolves took home a victory over Indianapolis by a score of 28-7, but were eliminated in the next round by West Texas A&M.

Last year, CSU-Pueblo topped off its third consecutive undefeated regular season with another trip to the playoffs and a first round bye. However, the team was unable to pick up a win and was eliminated in the second round after falling 34-30 to Grand Valley State.

This year the team is looking to get back to the playoffs, but it will not be a guarantee after losing their first regular season game in 42 straight. The team fell out of the top 10 in the national rankings for the first time in 37 weeks and currently sits at number 12.Only the top six teams make the playoffs from the RMAC, and the ThunderWolves will have to win all of the remaining games on the schedule to even be in consideration.

“Everybody knows what happened in the past, but we shrug that off and just have to prepare for this year and have a whole new mindset when it comes to the playoffs,” Paul Browning said.

The team has four games remaining on the schedule with two at home and two on the road. The only remaining game against a ranked opponent comes this week as the team takes on the Colorado School of Mines, which currently sits one spot ahead of CSU-Pueblo in the national polls at number 11.

“We’ll have about a day to celebrate this win before we turn all of our attention to the game next week against the School of Mines,” Coach John Wristen said after the 41-13 victory of Chadron State.

The ThunderWolf offense is back to full strength after the return of two big receiving targets in Paul Browning and Kieran Duncan. The team has also established a rushing game in the absence of the wide receivers, and will rely heavily on the reigning RMAC Offensive Player of the Week, Cameron McDondle.

The Colorado School of Mines is the only other school from Colorado in the top 25, and is currently undefeated with a record of 7-0. The Orediggers are set for a big game, and know that both teams’ playoff chances could be decided by Saturday’s game.